Family Strategies

Families are affected whenever a member is diagnosed with a chronic illness, especially mental illness.  In addition to the many changes in terms of relationships and managing unrealized expectations, there are the alterations in the very rituals that families carry out, including holidays, birthdays, vacations, etc.  These lessons teach facilitators how to offer strategies to families in navigating more confidently.  Every lesson has a quiz and at the end of the module, there is a final exam.  4.5  CEU

Avoiding Power Struggles: This lesson explores what power struggles are and strategies for more effectively engaging in interpersonal issues that are aroused when mental illness/brain disorders require a different approach to relationship imbalances.  Strategies include using one-liners to defuse arguments, enforceable statements, rights and responsibilities of family members, and how to engage in conflict resolution.

 Effective Communication: This lesson reviews various strategies designed to improve communication within the family, especially with the individual with a mental illness.  Strategies include LEAP, the 7 Challenges Workbook, I-Messages Revisited, Reflective Listening, and Active Listening.

Manage Holidays & Celebrations: Managing the holidays and other celebrations requires thought and planning when a family member has a chronic illness.  Facilitators are given the strategies on how to guide families through this process including an introduction to the Family WRAP, Julie Fast’s Bipolar Cards System, and alternatives to traditional or previous family rituals.  Facilitators consider it as effort on the front end so that at the back end families can put their feet up and relax!

Managing Symptoms: This lesson teaches facilitators a variety of different tools to guide families to more effective managing when the individuals they care about become symptomatic.  There are a variety of handouts and activities which are offered including separating the person from the illness, self-management tools, identifying stability and symptoms, initiating a basic safety plan.

Problem-Solving/Solution Finding: This lesson explores several tools and approaches to identifying and resolving problems.  Identifying a problem means that there is a solution. Two major approaches are discussed which are Solution-Focused Problem-Solving and the Structured Problem-Solving.  Participants are offered exercises and suggestions for guiding families in using these approaches and assisting them in learning how to defuse or resolve systemic issues in the family since a loved one has a mental illness/brain disorder.

Safety & Crisis Management

There are ways for family members to defuse crises at home, on behalf of loved ones, and for the whole family.  This module equips facilitators with tools for assisting participants in developing safety and crisis management plans, how to advocate on behalf of their loved ones, and what to do when confronting suicidal and other destructive behaviors.  Every lesson has a quiz and at the end of the module, there is a final exam.  4 CEUs

Defensive, not Offensive:  This lesson introduces facilitators to shifting perspective on offensive behaviors that families deal with when a loved one with a mental illness/brain disorder is unstable, symptomatic, and can be quite destructive.  Facilitators are offered a variety of tools to guide families in defusing crises at home, advocating with community responders, and how to maintain safety for the whole family. 

Managing Suicidal Behavior: Facilitators are introduced to the protective and risk factors to enable them to guide families in creating a management plan that insures their best efforts to protect their loved ones from self-destructive and life threatening behaviors.  From LEAP, WRAP, warning signs, responders, and community supports, participants are given a solid foundation to work effectively with families facing these issues.

Safety Planning and Crisis Management:  This lesson is a thorough walk through of how to develop and evaluate safety and crisis management plans.  Facilitators are offered guidance on proceeding with families, caregivers, and community providers on defusing violent encounters.  Advocacy is a part of this process since public education of a mental health crisis is not uniform. 

Your Caregiver Self-Care

This module is filled with lessons for facilitators to acquire the tools to effectively teach caregivers how to take care of themselves.  Caregivers are often stressed, and research informs us that caregivers tend to suffer various chronic illnesses themselves when they do not take care of themselves.  In addition to basic stress management, there are lessons that openly confront the issues that caregivers face.  Facilitators are taught how to gently guide caregivers in achieving mastery, identifying and building on their and their family’s strengths, as well as orienting themselves and their families towards a greater resilience in the face of a devastating chronic illness in one (or more) of their members.  Every lesson has a quiz and at the end of the module, there is a final exam. 6 CEUs

Ambiguous/Disenfranchised Grief:  This lesson teaches facilitators that families uprooted by mental illness experience a deep sense of loss in concert with the loss experienced by their loved ones.  The lesson includes discussion of ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief, strategies for managing this kind of loss, and assisting families in developing narratives about their experiences.

Boundaries: This is a core lesson since interpersonal relationships are formed by defining, refining, and implementing boundaries.  This lesson covers the what, the how, the why of boundaries, building blocks of forming boundaries, barriers to implementing healthy boundaries, strategies for disabling the enabling, a review of I-Messages, the 10 laws of healthy boundaries, and a variety of activities to implement as facilitators.

Guilt & Responsibility: Exploring what guilt and responsibility are enables facilitators to affirm caregiver’s lived experience and offer strategies towards implementing effective strategies in managing a more healthy and respective interpersonal milieu with the family. Strategies covered include worksheets about guilt and responsibility, exercises around powerlessness, Byron Katie’s “The Work,” and various worksheets that are used as discussion points for responsibility and what independence looks like.

Loss & Forgiveness: This lesson uses a review of ambiguous loss as a foundation for understanding forgiveness and guiding facilitators to offering hope through understanding how important forgiveness is in assisting caregivers to embrace a better balance for themselves and their families.  Strategies include affirmations, mindfulness, Plante’s “Seven Rules of Forgiveness,” The Serenity Prayer, and reviewing and rewriting the narratives that prevent caregivers from moving forward and modeling for their families how to grow through the experiences of loving a family member with a mental illness/brain disorder.

Self-Care: Self-Care is essential for participants to understand, implement, and apply to their situations.  Facilitators are taught about the impact of serious mental illness on the family, strategies specifically for caregivers, and general self-care.  Materials incorporated include TED talk by Guy Winch, CBT, stress management strategies, and suggestions for group activities.

Seven C’s: The Seven C’s are an acronym for easily remembering the basics: I did not Cause the illness, I cannot Control the illness, I cannot Cure the illness.  I can Care about my loved one, I can Communicate clearly.  I can make healthy Choices and Celebrate where I am today.  Resources used in this lesson include the Rivers “The seven challenges workbook,” which is a structured, intensive, exploration  of seven challenging skills for a lifetime of better communication in work, family, friendship & community.  Other skills include LEAP, The Work, and One Liners (Cline & Fay).

Silent Agreements: Silent agreements are the unspoken rules of relationships, especially family relationships.  These are the underlying assumptions and expectations for how family members are to conduct themselves.  Facilitators will acquire skills in identifying the Silent Agreements that underlie how families function, whether and how to challenge them, and promote greater mindfulness of interpersonal relationships.  This lesson includes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, The Work, Johnson’s Hidden Victims/Hidden Healers for caregivers, review the 7 C’s, Boundaries.